Jul 31 2017

Inspirational Lady Eli

Lady Eli Diana Stakes 2017

Lady Eli’s recent win in the grade one Diana Stakes was exhilarating. Her career record of nine wins in 12 starts and three second-place finishes is incredible. Her return to racing in August of last year after a 14 month layoff is amazing. But, what happened during that 420 day layoff is truly inspirational.

Before we go there, let’s turn back the clock a little bit. In August 2014 I was at Saratoga when Lady Eli made her winning debut in a maiden race. She followed that with a win in a stakes race at Belmont in September. I was so impressed by these two races that I later featured her in an article about visual handicapping just before the Breeders’ Cup. A video replay of the stakes race is in that article, and I described her maiden win at Saratoga as follows: “she was buried behind a wall of horses at the top of the stretch, bounced around quite a bit as she tried to get through, altered course, and finished with a burst to win by a nose. It was the kind of effort that really gets your attention.” I went on to say, “her first race showed an ability to overcome obstacles and her second race suggests there is a ton of upside for this promising filly.” She went on to win the Breeders’ Cup and her next three races after that.

However, following that sixth win, she stepped on a nail that became lodged in her foot and later developed into an infection. The infection turned into laminitis. For those that don’t know, laminitis is a very serious condition that usually ends a horse’s career and can prove to be fatal. Lady Eli was now in a fight for her life.

In an interview with her owners, they said there were many nights they went to bed not knowing if Lady Eli would survive the night. On many of those nights, Cherie DeVaux became her roommate and primary care taker, applying ice to her feet on a continual basis. I wonder what was going through her mind in those darkest of hours as she tried to save Lady Eli? Was she humming the lyrics from the song “Fix You” by Coldplay?

When you feel so tired, but you can’t sleep
And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone, but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

I wonder what was going through Lady Eli’s mind? Was she scared? Did she know she was fighting for her life? As she looked into the eyes of her caretaker, what feelings did she sense? As someone who has been through some very difficult times I know the look in the eyes of a caretaker, the desire and determination to fix you, limited in what they can do … yet doing it tirelessly just the same.

Regarding Cherie, I’m reminded of a conversation I had with trainer Tom Morley, on the relationship between people backside and their horses. He said, “I hope the public realizes the pain we go through when an accident happens. We do this because we love these animals. I hope they realize there’s somebody on the backside with floods of tears when something bad happens. I really do, I hope the public understands that it’s mortifying for us when it happens. We are not cruel people, any of us back here. We do it because we love them. And losing one is terrible.”

Regarding Lady Eli’s thoughts, I believe there is a life force within all living and breathing creatures. We all want to live, no matter how much the pain. ¬†With that said, we have our breaking point where the fighting spirit isn’t enough. Fortunately for all of us, her breaking point was not reached and her fighting spirit got her through the most difficult of times.

After what I have personally been through in the past two years I find her fighting spirit inspirational. There may not have been nights that I went to bed not knowing if I was going to survive the night, but I honestly admit, there were times when I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to wake up the next morning.

On the topic of rehabilitation from a serious injury, I was told by one of my caretakers that the definition of success is getting knocked down 99 times and getting up 100 times. With that in mind, I wrote the following poem, “The Fighter,” and I would like to share it with you.

I have been knocked down and gotten up so many times, I know what the canvas tastes like.
It tastes hard. It tastes cold.
It tastes like dirt pressed inside your nose, as your head hits the ground completely unopposed.
So I spit it out,hateful of the taste.
And I press myself up with arms extended full.
I suck in the clean air and push myself up from the floor.
Quietly pleading to return no more.

These were dark days for me, as I’m sure Lady Eli and Cherie experienced together many times. Lady Eli showed her ability to survive those dark days and maintain her fighting spirit. And once again she demonstrated this capability in the Diana Stakes. Only yards from the wire with victory uncertain, she surged to the lead and proved to all of us what is possible if you don’t give up. I wonder what she felt like after the race? I wonder what Cherie DeVaux felt? Were there tears of joy streaming down her face?

I have included the video of the race below (Lady Eli is #3) and I encourage you to watch it and pay particular attention to the determination in Lady Eli’s face in the final stages of the race. She certainly has inspired me to finish my race. And I hope she has inspired you as well.


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By Neal Benoit


The Article Sponsored By ADIRONDACK BEVERAGES (A Favorite Cooler Drink Of Racing Fans at Saratoga)

2 comments on “Inspirational Lady Eli

  1. Neal, Thank you for a very fine article and poem. It should remind all of us that subscribe to your website what we have been missing the last few years. You have gotten up off the canvas and are delivering forceful punches in the form of great writing. Lady Eli’s recovery couldn’t have come at a better time. Keep getting up,staying up and punching back.

    Shawn and Nancy on

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